Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have vowed to strengthen the bloc's centrality and credibility for the sake of peace, stability and prosperity in the region and in the world, according to an ASEAN foreign ministers' joint communique released on Friday.
In the joint communique issued after the 55th ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting (55th AMM) held in Phnom Penh under the chairmanship of Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, the ministers said ASEAN centrality, credibility and relevance are essential to maintain peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and in the world.
"We underscored the importance of strengthening ASEAN centrality and unity in our engagement with ASEAN's external partners, including through ASEAN-led mechanisms ... in order to build mutual trust and confidence as well as reinforce an open, transparent, resilient, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture with ASEAN at the center," the communique said.
"We reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation and underscored the importance of ASEAN's partnerships with other external partners such as regional and international organizations to address global concerns, pursue shared goals and complementary initiatives, and promote sustainable development for the benefit of our people," it added.
The ministers also reaffirmed their shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes.
"We reaffirmed our belief that regionalism and multilateralism are important principles and frameworks of cooperation, and that their strength and value lie in their inclusivity, rules-based nature, and emphasis on mutual benefit and respect," the communique said.
On the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministers remained concerned with the continued human cost and suffering as well as the profound socio-economic impact of the pandemic, saying that the bloc's ongoing collective efforts are vital to respond to and recover swiftly from the pandemic.
"We underscored the importance of strengthening ASEAN's cooperation with its dialogue partners, external partners, and international organizations to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases as well as in preparing for other future public health emergencies," it said.
"We welcome contributions and support from external partners to the region's recovery efforts, including through the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund," it added.
On the economic front, they reiterated their commitment to keeping the bloc's markets open for trade and investment, enhancing transparency, and refraining from imposing unnecessary non-tariff measures to ensure supply chain connectivity, particularly for food, medicines, medical supplies, and other essential products, the communique said.
The 56th AMM and related meetings will be held in Indonesia in 2023.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
(Cover: File photo of the China-ASEAN expo in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. /Xinhua)